It’s been over eight years since my dad slipped away and took my life as I knew it along with him. Of course, I was devastated when he died, and I have found that no matter how much time passes, there is always a part of me that misses him. At the same time, I have come to appreciate the outcomes of his death that have shaped my life for the better. The gifts he left behind weren’t gifts of conventional value; instead, he left me with the opportunity to rethink the ways I was choosing to live up to the time of his passing. Like so many women, I had completely lost myself in the midst of mothering and in all the roles I had taken on through adulthood. It was in the space I created to grieve after my dad’s death that I rediscovered my long-lost love for creativity.
At first, as I began to share my writing and art, I heard people say things like, “Oh, I would love to ______ (write, paint, craft…), but I just don’t have time.” I completely understood. Before my dad’s death, I wouldn’t have thought that I had the time either. What I quickly discovered though, was that if I didn’t make the time to create, there were parts of me, essential parts, that would surely perish. It was vital to my own well-being that I make time to create. The same is true today.
In grieving places, we are often told that grief comes in waves. Those waves we ride in grief are actually an appropriate metaphor for describing the journeys we take with most matters of the heart. “Riding the waves” is a saying that aptly describes the ways in which I am required to navigate the ebb and flow as I work to cultivate and sustain a creative life.
I tend to shy away from writing about how to do things; but, sharing what has worked for me seems essential in the realm of creativity. As humans, we ourselves are creations and as such, we were made to create.
We are creative beings.
We are all artists and we do best when we give ourselves the gifts of creativity. I have found that what I do to nurture my creativity is less important than how I do it. Much of my work around creativity involved some aspect of redefining what it meant to me to make things.
My first task was to let go of expectations about what it meant to create a piece of art.
I was drawn to ways of creating that were focused on the process rather than a specific outcome. In my grieving space, I took numerous online art classes in intuitive painting and in collage and mixed media. My goal was never to replicate something I had seen before.
It was always to play and to explore.
Mixed media art allowed me to incorporate my love for color and texture and layers into my creations. I worked with multiple mediums, just playing, never knowing where I was headed or what my piece would look like when it was complete. Abstract art gives an artist a lot of space to play and explore and I revel in that space. With each piece of paper I cut and glue to my canvas, I am in some way piecing myself back together. In that time and space, I am fully present and fully me. Not someone’s mom or wife or daughter or sister, just me.
The creative process is a moving meditation where the thinking brain can rest and where we can give ourselves permission to simply be. It took very little time in my practice of the creative process for me to realize how powerful it is to create without expectations, and an even shorter amount of time to feel the positive impact of cultivating my creativity. That was the flow.
The more time that passed after the day of my dad’s death, and the more my children grew and needed me, the less time I had to devote to my creativity. I had to find ways to keep creating that didn’t require as much of my time.
This was the ebb. This was when I let go of my expectations about what art actually was. It wasn’t just a painting, it could be a page in an art journal or even just a few strokes of paint. It could be a meal, a planter filled with flowers, or a carefully selected filter on an Instagram photo. It didn’t need to be an entire blog post, it could be a mere caption.
As long as I was creating something, big or small, the act of that making had the effect of a potent medicine.
Depending on what is happening in other areas of my life and where my work is currently focused, I can be in the ebb, the flow, or somewhere in between with my creativity. Yes, I sometimes dream about having unlimited days and days to paint and play with words and papers, and sometimes I can actually make those days happen.
Mostly though, I am okay with a few minutes here and there to engage with the creative process. It is all art. At the very least, the lives we create for ourselves are our art. As artists, we are obligated to nurture our creativity. By letting go of any predetermined expectations we carry about what the creative process should look like or lead to, we create more space for flow.
About the Author: Anna Oginsky
Anna Oginsky is the founder of Heart Connected, LLC, a small Michigan-based workshop and retreat business that creates opportunities for guests to tune in to their hearts and connect with the truth, wisdom, and power held there. Her work is inspired by connections made between spirituality, creativity, and community. Anna’s first book, My New Friend, Grief, came as a result of years of learning to tune in to her own heart after the sudden loss of her father. In addition to writing, Anna uses healing tools like yoga, meditation, and making art in her offerings and in her own personal practice. She lives in Brighton, Michigan with her husband, their three children, and Johnny, the big yellow dog. Connect with her on her website; Twitter; Facebook; or Instagram.